380 - New Year Snippets | Scoins.net | DJS

380 - New Year Snippets

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    ➭  War in Ukraine, indirect consequences

     ➭ Classes of number, including octonions (twice as long as quaternions)

     ➭ Graphene revisited

Highway code changes

South Americe; more Spanish or more Portuguese?

Charging your EV - maybe this is the problem.

Audi engine size numbering (is perhaps confusing)

The Chancellor hands out money to reduce your energy bill - what could possibly go wrong?

The Colston statue; where we're at

computer security (mine)

Is exercise the same as lose weight? No way, so why do we think it is?

Green buildings • warmer weather  • omicron vs delta

15-minute city revisit

Quite a lot!   This may need to be broken up into palatable chunks !!



We have changes to the Highway Code brought in this month, much of which is misrepresented. There is a hierarchy of road users, from the most vulnerable (now at the top) to the least. Cyclists are (again) encouraged to use a whole lane, especially at junctions. Cyclists have always been encouraged to choose between road and cycle lane (but that doesn't permit pavement use, say I, unless it is designated as a cycle path too). There's a small but significant change to the rules about pedestrians crossing the road; where previously one gave way as soon as a pedestrian had begun to cross, one now does that if they're waiting to cross. As [31] says, good drivers won't see any change at all. Drivers are encouraged to use the Dutch reach, using the off hand, to open car doors, so that they're looking in the right direction, behind the car. One has been careful forever over opening doors into traffic, but this is still a good idea.

I wonder if telling people that no-one has noticed the changes is merely a way to make more of us aware that there is an update. If so, I think it has worked. In practice, very little has actually changed. The Highway Code has had an edit and tiny changes have occurred. I wonder whether this will, in time, be seen as a cry of "wolf!"  Meanwhile, I also wonder if the hierarchical change is actually the fundamental here. If I am right, then my next thought is that this is offering itself to abuse, particularly from the vulnerable, none of whom pay insurance. For example, if traffic is required to make way for a pedestrian, then suddenly those people who choose to cross the road in (inappropriate, inconsiderate ways that cause drivers to say swearwords) will see themselves as given carte-blanche to behave ever more so. In turn this largely adds to the incentives to stay away from built-up areas, i.e. places with pedestrians and bicycles. Further, the use of e-bikes, already edging to dangerous—mostly because their brakes are nothing like as good as their motors—creates a whole new category of road-user at risk. In the hierarchy, these ought to give way to human-powered cycles, but I am already certain that the current rulings make no distinction. Humans being the selfish bastards that they are (enough to matter, whatever your personal attributes), this means that all e-bikes must be treated as cycles and that every e-biker must be treated as inherently more dangerous. Since it is difficult to spot the difference, this means that all cycles must be treated as 'more' dangerous, not at all the intention. So the unintended consequence here is that bikes are more protected than they were, and simultaneously, a big enough minority will take all the advantage they can, thus making the group as a whole perceived as 'more' dangerous. I certainly feel no more safe at the prospect of cycling and I shall continue to avoid the possibility, possession of bicycle notwithstanding.

[31] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/jan/24/common-myths-about-what-uk-highway-code-changes-will-mean  

[32] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-01-22/big-change-is-coming-to-the-highway-code

[33] https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/product-news/electric-bikes-uk-law-234973

                                      DJS 20220125


Revisit graphene


In South America, which language is spoken by more, Spanish or Portuguese? If given this or a similar question, the wording affects your answer. South America is from Panama southwards (Latin America includes the central bit up to and including Mexico). Brazil is usually seen as the only Portuguese-speaking nation but its population is similar to the sum of all the others. The Guyanas/Guianas speak English, French and Dutch, so the 2019 population comparison is 215M for Por to 210M for Esp. [For 2020, 212.6M Bra 422.5M SAm, so 212.6:209.9. That is very close, 1.3% difference.] So the 'right' answer might come down to detail of the question and the precision of the expected answer: probably more people understand and can speak Spanish than Portuguese, but significant numbers don't speak either language on a daily basis and some speak both. So the 'right' answer might well come down to an appreciation of the prevalence of an official language within these countries. If we replace South America with Latin America, it is easily Spanish that is more prevalent. Countries that include Portuguese as the sole official language: Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé & Príncipe; Macau, East Timor and Equatorial Guinea have it as one of the official languages. It is not hard to find opinion that says more people speak Portuguese in South America. I say this is yet another counting problem. Babbel argues that a few South American countries have Portuguese-speaking pockets, including Argentina (58,000), Paraguay (235,000), Uruguay (30,600) and Venezuela (254,000). I'd argue that these people also speak Spanish, the official language of their home nation, so they count on both sides, again depending on the precision of the question.
Best answer: these numbers are very close, but probably more people understand Spanish than understand Portuguese. As for which is dominant, that has to be answered with 'neither', unless the answer requires one to count nations as if equal. A better follow-on question might  be to wonder how Brazil held together in unity and the remainder fractured into separate nations.


Friends passed by in a way that caused us to meet offsite while their EV charged. A strange experience, showing that one has misunderstood 'range anxiety', or that the term is due for a reset. It is not that there is a problem finding a charger, it is that there is a problem finding a charger at which you (particularly, specifically) can charge.  If there is an equivalent from the early days of having LPG as a fuel, some of those problems remain; it is a relatively unusual fuel, locating a source when away from whatever your vehicle base is has some issues (access, timing, perhaps even payment). These transfer to the EV issue, with exaggeration. Is there a free connection? Is it of a type to which I can physically connect? And electronically connect? Is this with a provider for whom I have a subscription? Is this pump working (10-15% that don't work at any one moment)? Are there some things I can do while we wait for the charging to occur?    

I noticed that the wifi or 4G connection seemed to be an issue when in proximity to the pump. I see that the chain of things that need to work is far longer (at the moment) than for fossil fuels and so there are many more possible fail points. That says to me that the point at which one might switch to an EV is still in the distance, or that one would switch to an EV for the local journeys, such that charging is mostly expected to occur at home, a place where  the line of fail points is mercifully short. This is not range anxiety as much as it is a scarcity of workable resupply.


Audi engine size references are confusing; they generally are multiples of 5 from 25 to 40 but actually run all the way to 70. The 25 badge is entry level and refers to cars that have 106hp or less. That is modest. The 30 badge is 107hp to 127hp, 35 is 145hp to 159hp, and 40 is 165hp to 198hp. Larger numbers refer to significantly more powerful vehicles. The 45 badge is 223hp to 244hp, 50 is 278hp to 304hp, 55 is 324hp to 363hp, and 60 is 423hp to 449hp. Finally, 70 is only for cars that have 529hp and greater. Come up with a rule to decipher this.  

An exponential that fits quite well is 33e^0.405x, picking coefficients one might just remember (Peugeot 405).  I've left the quadratic form in the chart because that was the simplest polynomial; higher order will have an even better fit. Quite clearly this is a non-linear progression.


Rishi Sunak, the UK.gov chancellor threw an awful lot of money at the cost-of-living problem yesterday.  Every household gets £400, the most vulnerable £1200. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, that depends on how people think. It also depends how the money is handed out. Since subsidies are now recognised to, in general, not work—for example give a load of money to the energy companies so they keep their prices low or lower—them moving the choice of action to the end-user isa good decision. I see no good reason why this could be seen as 'good' for inflation and I'm sure we could find economists who identify this as an inflationary act. The argument there is for the household that doesn't need the money (quite possibly that includes my household) who then decide to spend this windfall – that would be inflationary.

For those in dire straits this has got to be a good thing, but the one-off nature of such a gift has its own issues. At least the chancellor has moved away from this being a loan (to be returned). But we cannot expect energy prices to fall subsequently, though we might expect that some straitened resources will ease (such as the supply of grain, if the land in Ukraine returns to cropping). So this gift is very welcome but the hurt is merely deferred, unless there is a raft of improvements (generally predicted under 'levelling-up', but I fear increasingly unlikely to occur, since it requires yet more spend). So the third quarter of 2023 is the new due date for heightened energy costs. In a sense, this money allows us longer to work out ways to mitigate the change, both by individual household and as a nation.

What else could go wrong is the assumption that the spend will be covered in large part by the 'temporary' windfall tax, which the chancellor was trying very hard to call something different, not including the word 'windfall'. Clear statement: the tax will be removed once oil and gas prices fall. Really? By a little bit only, like a tenth of a cent, or by some significant margin such as back to early 2021 levels? Clear statement: the amount of tax is modified by the capital spend on things that the gov't decides are worthy (the detail went grey and foggy here) but might be any sort of fudge giving hope to any of three parties; those making the rules, those paying the tax, those receiving the results of the tax.

I strongly doubt if any sort of windfall tax is going to have a positive effect on us reaching net zero. I think it does largely the opposite and persuades us that we can continue as we are. An economist would talk about supply side and demand side; this is waving two sorts of stick at the supply side, one with a carrot attached and doing nothing to affect the demand side. Not that I can see a better solution other than adding nudges to these energy gifts. The advantaged are, yet again, given more advantage. I think my household and others like it should be hit with what I think is likely to be most of an extra £1000 in energy costs; this would drive us closer to committing to change and actually spending on making that change happen. I've costed this out and as yet I cannot persuade the boss (her at work) that this is justified, nor worth the disruption (her biggest concern, since it's me that would pay for it); we already have the house cold and we wear coats indoors through the winter (and that's pretty grim); this, I was hoping, would push her over the edge into acceptance that we could have a warmer house altogether.

What else could go wrong? Adding money into circulation is inflationary, so the effective spend of this money is itself reduced as time passes. So while the smarter members of a hard-up household will budget for money in to balance money out, any further increase in inflation only serves to narrow the gap back towards being in net deficit.



Two sections moved to essay 381, one looks at the conflict between freedom and security and the other looks at what we think we mean by returning to normal or what we might mean by a new normal, along with how we perceive such possible change.  


20220105 All four defendants were cleared of criminal damage in toppling the Edward Colston statue in Bristol.  The four defendants argued that their actions were justified because the statue was so offensive. I do not understand how this was not criminal damage; there was damage (the council spent over £2500 restoring pavement and railings, ignoring the statue completely) and I do not see why the council inhabitants should pay for that. Perhaps the damage was not criminal and should be settled by a civil action? I looked up what constitutes criminal damage A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another, intending to destroy or damage any such property, or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged, shall be guilty of an offence. source. The acquittal means that the jury decided that there was lawful excuse. What an ass.

§5.1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971: A person has a lawful excuse if  they believed at the time that those whom they believed to be entitled to consent to the destruction of or damage to the property in question had so consented, or would have so consented to it if they had known of the destruction or damage and its circumstances; or...

Which is to say that the argument says that this action was in line with the consent of all, or at least a sufficient number of people. I read that as consent to damage by riot, which cannot be true. The alternative argument is that this was a preventative action but that is a stretch too far for me; this prevented nothing. Correct behaviour would be to petition that the statue be removed.

But it appears that this petitioning had occurred, so that the action to remove the statue could be regarded as action with implied consent.

The residual worry then is that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will be passed, including the parts about damaging memorials. the matter here may reduce to causing local authorities to somehow act in accord with public demand – in which case, one wonders how much demand is required (20% of council tax payers? a sufficiently large petition of anyone interested?) for action to be required (mandated, even).

I wonder if this constitutes 'reprisal' as in essay 374, approved illegal behaviour. There will be more on this. In particular a reprise of the effect of a jury decision in apparent conflict with previous decisions.

50] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jan/05/four-cleared-of-toppling-edward-colston-statute

[51]  https://www.theguardian.com/media/2022/jan/07/gb-news-accused-of-prejudicing-colston-four-trial

[52]  https://theconversation.com/we-attended-the-trial-of-the-colston-four-heres-why-their-acquittal-should-be-celebrated-174481?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%202168321480&utm_content=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%202168321480+Version+A+CID_82aeee3e394e02e9a70bd226f7740a95&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=attended%20the%20trial

[53]  https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/2839


I'm having computer security issues. Some (horrid) people are sending me spam that purports to come from me (yes, from me to me). I'd already changed the ways in which I deal with spam every morning – 15-30 unwanted mails every day and another five per day of what amounts to prompts (e.g., of a post on FB that I may wish to see, of an account statement becoming available). One of my email accounts distinguishes between Junk and Spam and I don't see a difference in how these are dealt with any more than I see a difference in the label.

The latest Apple OS upgrade provides ways of 'hiding' one's email address. I do not understand when one 'should' do this. I'm already hitting difficulties with online purchases, something I have always had misgivings about. I've read what Apple provide and have two responses; the first is that we should not need to do any such thing and that we should instead be acting openly as ourselves, taking responsibility for our actions and being accountable for those. The second is that this provision of hiding email addresses is meeting a perceived need, probably as a response to the endless attacks of spammers and hackers, while simultaneously (it appears to me) providing those same degenerates with tools for furthering their aims.

[30]  https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT210425

[31] https://www.idropnews.com/how-to/why-you-shouldnt-use-hide-my-email/155787/   This among the comments: [This] article seems to be written from the POV of a company that is losing power over hide my mail. It is true that there will be a lot of email proliferation using hide my mail, as you generate a different email address for each site. However, you also need to generate a unique password for each site and you need to keep track of that too through a password manager that will keep your random email. Even if you use the email for a newsletter, Apple will keep track of the emails you generated, and as long as you add the name of the site when you generate the random address, you can find the address you are looking for. What the article does not mention  is that by using a randomly generated email unique for every site you can identify who is selling your data, and you now have the power to block that fake email and take your business somewhere else. I wonder if this is the reason behind this article.



To discuss with SE in Capetown.  Despite me saying it's what we give up for Lent, apparently 80% of us have given up NY resolutions by the start of February, before even CNY.

Particularly I'm bothered by the continued association of 'lose weight' with 'do exercise'.


Amused that the new Chinese year is the tiger, but I misremembered teacher (lao3shi1) as lao3hu3, remembering hu3 alone as tiger. The always out-of-date teacher is lao3shi0 lao3shi4 lao3shi1, to be remembered as lao shi 041. I always heard the teacher version as laoshuh. Being a snake, personally, I sought lao3 she2, which might be an old snake, but probably one ought to prefix a gui3, gui3lao3she2.   [Gui, at least at home, is pronounced as gway; the third tone dips in the  middle.]    When track running in ZhaoQing I was often referred to as gui3lau3, where the dictionary tells me the correct Mandarin would be yang2 gui3 zi0, possibly xi1yang3 guizi (western foreign devil, 西洋 鬼子。 So 鬼佬 guilao is the Cantonese version; there were locals in my building with even less Mandarin than I had at the time, so even the boss had communication difficulties on occasion. 


[40]  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-12-13/farmscraper-design-takes-vertical-farms-to-new-heights?cmpid=BBD121421_CITYLAB&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=211214&utm_campaign=citylabdaily    describes a proposed building in Shenzhen and the pictures show people using a mall. Which is fine, except they have the occupation (visible people) way, way too low. This is the right density for midnight to dawn. For 'normal', picture the crowdest (most crowded) you'd see in Britain (think the week before Christmas in a non-covid year or a half-term break where we all coincide for holiday). Shenzhen is a wonderfully modern city close to Hong Kong and, in many ways, is what HK would be like if built anew. Your new word for today is farmscraper.  The biggest challenge is not engineering them in the first place — it’s maintenance.


Historical note: 01Jan was a very warm day; 14º locally, 16º peak in London, the warmest such since records began, in some regards, detailed on the linked page. 

[51]  https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2022/new-years-day

The extremely mild spell is driven by a flow of warm, moist air pushing across the UK from the Canary Islands and further south in the Atlantic and has resulted in the unusual situation of one weather system breaking weather records for two days in separate calendar years. As well as mild temperatures it has also brought cloud and outbreaks of rain for some.


This warm weather was balanced by a spell of very cold and a drop of ten degrees across a single day. The difference is caused by whether warm air comes from the south or cold air from the north; for several days we had the separator lying more or less at the England/Scotland border.

Balance that picture with storm Eunice (EU-nice, I thought, still preferring to be European and British but now denied such). 100mph is very rare here. But then we used to use 'rare' for once in a century effects and here we are comparing this with only 2021, Arwen, the last red (risk to life) warning. Before that, the 'beast from the east', Emma, in March 2018. I think we should look back at 1987, the 'great storm'. Guardian reference. Hurricane force winds are 75mph-plus. Definitely reached. The red warning has passed (16:00) but amber remains; going to band may be affected and tomorrow's half-marathon looks grimly wet and cold. There was a photo from the year we moved here of runners under what looked like a wave of water (they run along the Front). Tomorrow may be similar.


BBCNews 18:02 on 20211223: someone infected with omicron rather than delta is up to 45% less likely to attend A&E and up to and up to 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital.

What an awful way of presenting information; the 100%, that essential for understanding, is quite well buried. Later those numbers become 30-45% and 50-70%. Having said this was awful, I cannot think of a better way to put it without requiring a lot more detail, like an absolute risk, measured or perceived. I suspect that bald numbers would be better.

So suppose there were 100 people with delta who attend A&E, of whom 10X are admitted to hospital. Replace these delta cases with omicron it would seem that there are 55 that attend A&E and 3X that are admitted to hospital. So if omicron figures are a lot higher, let's say twice as big as an equivalent delta sample, then 110 are at A&E and 6X will be admitted. If omicron is three time as big, then 165 attend A&E and 9X are going to be in hospital.

Let's go back to that 50-70%, then (50-70% with omicron instead of delta are less likely to be admitted). If the issue is to do with swamping the NHS and if we were very close to breaking the NHS at 21,000 in hospital (adjust the number to suit, but we learned some limiting numbers in early 2020, with a peak of 34,000) and if, on average, people occupy a bed for three weeks, then our limit per day is 1000-1500 new hospitalisations. So in turn that means that the limiting prevalence of omicron (case count) is between 40% and 100% bigger than for the delta waves.   42% comes from 1/70% but these are crude numbers so I've rounded it off. So, while we watch the case figures go sky high, we know that in terms of 'protecting the NHS' the numbers we need to watch are for hospitalisation rates, which vary tremendously with the age group that is being infected. We also observe that something like ⅔ of the acute (covid) beds are taken by people who are not vaccinated (not even a little bit, and they commonly think that now is a suitable moment to be jabbed, when they are so very wrong; they have to survive first). That figure clarified later as 90% not totally jabbed and 60% totally unjabbed (of those hospitalised with covid).

Another figure to watch is the staffing levels at NHS, which hits big problems when absence exceeds 20,000, needing external support (e.g., drafted soldiers, firemen, etc). Today's figure is just under 19,000.


This relates to essay 290, 15-minute access, and takes some of those ideas quite a good deal further. The essential idea is that facilities be accessible.  

One immediate issue is that the space outside your habitation is primarily used for the moving and storage of vehicles. This may be your own car, of course. One minute access means everywhere within perhaps 100m of your property edge. The Swedish idea is to move intervention to the immediately local level, but the underlying idea is to show that there could be very much more interaction with urban development. Sweden being what it is (and the home of IKEA) some of the suggested solutions fit exactly a car parking space (or more), such as a bike rack or an e-scooter interchange. I note immediately that those ideas move the idea of a 1-minute idea to something larger, like the 15 minute city. What the concept is about is moving one's focus to local in a more immediate sense. Obviously we cannot move everything to a hyperlocal position; obviously we still have a need for transportation of people and goods. Realistically, the module design allows for experimentation—suck it and see—such that a neighbourhood might discover an opinion by trying out a sample idea. It struck me that crowded Britain can only produce such space by losing that same space from another use; as it is, the new legislation that allows councils to stop people parking on the pavement is going to be rapidly counter-productive as it makes pavements bigger (in usability) but roads narrower. I look at my own street and I think that taking parking onto only the road makes two-way traffic even less possible, which is fine if the protected kerb lengths (where a house has off-road access protected by a don't-park white line) constitute passing places. Which would, I agree, reduce the traffic using the street as a rat-run. Maybe that should be an objective.

The 5-minute idea is also based on a presumption of walking. For me 5 minutes is 500m or so and that (just) includes my health centre, quite an extensive range of shops and reasonable access to public transport (if I were so inclined; I'm not). Five minutes does not quite get me into the local park (wonderful space, fantastic asset, more like 700m) and I'd imagine that some nearby green space would be a general desirable. As I wondered in the earlier piece, I think we might manage a drop-off point for goods at that sort of frequency but we are not yet accepting the implied loss of convenience. It is only lost convenience if we are not participating in the concept of localised neighbourhoods; if one was going to (let's call it the) village shop every day and that was where you picked up deliveries from mail to eBay, where there was enough interaction and social trust that I might drop off your package since I'm going past both (you and the shop), then we'd be trading one sort of convenience (staying at home for deliveries, as I have been all morning) for another, that very social interaction that the pandemic has shown us we can put a value upon.

DJS June 2009

[90] A Tiny Twist on Street Design: The One-Minute City - Bloomberg

[91] https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2018/10/17/Five-Minute-City-Better-Vancouver/

[92]  https://ww3.rics.org/uk/en/modus/built-environment/urbanisation/one-minute-cities-could-put-the-world-on-your-doorstep.html


How a Street Moves project street might look with various parklet elements added. 

Utopia Arkitekter

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